CAIRO, Egypt – Dozens of al-Qaida in Iraq fighters who attacked Iraq’s notorious
Abu Ghraib prison in April planned to knock a hole in the prison wall and topple guard towers with a series of car bombs to free detainees and hit U.S. forces, according to a purported al-Qaida video.
The April 2 attack on the prison west of Baghdad left one attacker dead and more than 40 U.S. servicemembers and 13 prisoners wounded. Dozens of militants attacked the facility with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and a car bomb, but failed to break in.
The eight-minute video, signed by the spokesman of al-Qaida in Iraq and posted on an Islamic militant Web forum Tuesday, showed a satellite photo of the facility, with U.S. troop positions and “interrogation booths” marked in English on it, as a voice-over outlines attack plans.
A ticker along the bottom of the well-produced video streamed photos of abuse of detainees by U.S. soldiers at the facility, including a famed image of a naked prisoner being dragged on a leash by a female guard. The images of abuse and sexual humilation have generated outrage among Iraqis and across the Arab world since they first emerged in early 2004.
Later in the video, militants are seen firing rockets, and Abu Ghraib is filmed from what appears to be a field some distance away during the attack. A large mushroom cloud — the kind of raised by vehicle bombs — is seen as are several other plumes of smoke.
The video’s authenticity could not be authenticated. Al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups often put out videos showing their attacks in order to drum up support and encourage Iraqis and other Arabs to join the insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
A statement with the Web posting said the video was part of a “full set” still to be released showing attacks by the “Brigade of Aisha, Mother of the Faithful,” a previously unknown cell of al-Qaida in Iraq fighters.
The voiceover explaining the plans for the attacks said it had two aims: “First is to release our brothers from this prison. The second is raise the morale of the mujahideen across Iraq if God lets us succeed in this operation.”
The plan involved more than 50 fighters assaulting the prison from four sides, he explains. From the south side, fighters were to knock a hole in the wall and “knock down towers” with a truck bomb, then drive an explosives-filled tractor through the hole.
From two other sides, militants would engage the security forces as a distraction. Then, on the north side, attackers would break open the wall again with a vehicle bomb and send two more car bombs through the hole “into the American forces to destroy their headquarters.”
The signal to launch the attack was to be a barrage of rockets on Abu Ghraib.
U.S. authorities have not given exact details about what happened in the April 2 attack, so it was not known how closely the attackers stuck to the plan outlined in the video.
But the plan was typical of well-coordinated assaults al-Qaida has carried out in the past. Several times it has used the technique of breaking through a security wall with one suicide bomber, then driving a second through the hole to attempt to hit the target inside.
The video showed men said to be the suicide attackers who drove the suicide vehicle bombs in the Abu Ghraib assault, reading the Quran together in a room before the operation.
Abu Ghraib was at the center of a prisoner abuse scandal that broke out in 2004 when pictures showing soldiers piling naked inmates in a pyramid and humiliating them sexually became public. The resulting scandal tarnished the military’s image worldwide and led to investigations of detainee abuses.